By: David Souza
For the fourth consecutive February, Boston University men’s ice hockey will skate in the Beanpot Championship game, and for the third consecutive year, they will do so searching for their 31st Beanpot in school history. Returning to the title game after losses in the last two Finals, the No. 20 Terriers will look to down the No. 12 Northeastern Huskies, who have yet to capture a Beanpot since 1988.
The Terriers and the Huskies have squared off 12 times in the late game on the second Monday in February, with BU emerging the victors nine times in those tilts. The scarlet and white’s dominance over their Huntington Ave. rivals stretches back to the mid-90s, where BU began their current six-game winning streak in Beanpot Finals against Northeastern. Since the Huskies last championship in the late 1980s, the Terriers have bested NU in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2009 and 2015 en route to Beanpot titles.
The most recent episode occurred three years ago when an overtime wrist shot from former Terrier captain Matt Grezlyck beat Northeastern’s Clay Witt to deliver BU its 30th Beanpot. Since that time, the Terriers have returned to the Championship Game in consecutive years, falling to rival Boston College in overtime in 2016, before being dispatched by Harvard in 2017’s title tilt. Despite those losses, the Terriers (15-11-3, 10-7-3 Hockey East) have gained valued experience in their last trio of Beanpot tournaments.
“It certainly helps the guys that have played in this tournament before, being in that environment,” said Terrier Head Coach Dave Quinn. “Anytime you can go through these experiences, I think it’s got to help you a little bit.”
Returning to the title game with the most experience for the Terriers is none other than Captain Brandon Hickey, who has recently enjoyed his best stretch of offensive production this season. In three of BU’s last four games, Hickey has potted goals, doubling his total for strikes this year. The captain also managed two assists to go along with his go-ahead tally in last week’s Beanpot semifinal game against Harvard.
Hickey is joined by fellow seniors Chase Phelps, John Macleod, Brien Diffley and Nikolas Olsson as the only current Terriers with a Beanpot title under their belts; though for Olsson, this game carries some extra meaning.
“This is actually the second Beanpot that I would play in because I’ve been unfortunately injured for the previous two,” Olsson said at the Beanpot luncheon, the annual prelude to the February tournament that took place on January 30.
“My freshman year we obviously had a great experience, two wins, a championship…it was a lot of fun and so any experience going into this helps, and so I’m going to use that.”
Olsson was scratched from last Friday’s game against the University of Massachusetts, but Coach Quinn said on Sunday that both Olsson and Cam Crotty – who was also out against the Minutemen – will be ready to go come Monday night. While the Terriers will welcome back the pair, they will still be without two key members of their offense.
Jordan Greenway has been the center of BU’s top line for most of the season, and was integral in the third period and overtime of last week’s win over Harvard. Greenway will continue to be absent from the BU lineup on Monday night as the junior is currently over in Pyeongchang, South Korea representing Team USA in the Winter Olympics.
Additionally, Coach Quinn notified the media after Friday night’s tie to UMass that Patrick Harper will not play in the Beanpot Final due to illness. Harper has had an extended absence after he showed flu-like symptoms near the beginning of January, though Quinn remarked that the team is still trying to pinpoint what exactly is ailing the sophomore forward.
Despite these two losses, the Terrier offense looked in sync in Friday night’s contest, pumping 41 shots on goal despite being without Greenway for the first time all season. A main reason for BU’s continued success on offense – which ranks 11th in the nation with 3.21 goals per game – is the play of their youthful second line.
“I think we’ve grown up a lot,” Coach Quinn said of the difference between this BU team and the one swept by Northeastern back in November. “All of our freshman have played a lot more hockey, and I think we’re in a different mindset. I think our goalie is playing the best hockey of the season, our special teams are better, there’s a lot of things that we’re doing differently.”
With junior Bobo Carpenter elevated to the top trio in Greenway’s absence, the second line for BU has consisted of freshman forwards Shane Bowers, Logan Cockerill and Hank Crone. All three are in the midst of arguably their best stretches of play in their young BU careers.
Bowers has been on a tear recently, recording seven goals in the ten games the Terriers have played since returning from winter break. The freshman has also totaled three assists in that stretch, and has a trio of multi-point games in his last seven outings. With Bowers continuing to light the lamp, the freshman now stands second on the Terriers in goals with 15 – trailing only Carpenter – and third in points with 24, just one point behind Greenway and four behind Carpenter.
Flanking Bowers on the left wing is Cockerill, who has seen an uptick in his production in the Terriers’ nine-game unbeaten streak. Six of BU’s last seven games have featured a Cockerill point, as the freshman has tallied a goal and five assists in that stretch. The lone strike opened the scoring against Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot.
Scouting the Huskies
Northeastern (16-8-5, 11-6-3 Hockey East) entered last Monday as the favorite to win their first Beanpot Championship since 1988. The Huskies are currently ranked 11th in the nation and, while they are not atop the Hockey East standings, have been the most explosive team in the conference with a pair of scorers atop the nation in points.
Junior forward Adam Gaudette currently stands atop collegiate men’s hockey with 21 goals and 44 points. The Braintree, Mass. native buried a pair of tallies against the Terriers back in a November game at Matthews Arena where the Huskies blew out BU, 6-1. In his last two contests, Gaudette has totaled five points on two goals and a trio of assists; however, the junior had been held silent in the previous two games preceding that.
Senior Assistant Captain Dylan Sikura also is a Hobey Baker Candidate this year for Northeastern, as he stands third in the nation with 39 points and second in assists with 25. The senior from Aurora, Ontario is currently second in the NCAA in active scoring with 130 points, and is one of just three Huskies on this year’s team who fell to BU in the 2015 title game.
Usually the Huskies Achilles’ Heel, the defense for Northeastern has been stellar this season as well. Currently, the Huskies are seventh in the nation in goals-allowed per game with 2.24. The main reason for that stout effort has been the play of Northeastern net minder Cayden Primeau.
The son and nephew of former NHLers, Primeau has been a revelation for the Huskies, backstopping his way to a 1.98 goals-against average – seventh best in the NCAA – and a .922 save percentage, 10th highest in the country. In Primeau’s lone start against the Terriers, the freshman stopped 33 of 34 shots in a 6-1 win.
The contest will also feature a battle between two of the best power plays in the nation. The Huskies come into the contest converting at a 25 percent rate – tied for sixth in the nation – while the Terriers are nipping right on their heels at 23.53 percent, ninth most in the NCAA.